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The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

From packable pads to comfortable air beds, we found the best camping mattresses and sleeping pads to fit every adventure and budget.

Best Camping Mattresses and Sleeping PadsThicker camping pads offer increased warmth and comfort; (photo/Matt Granger)
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Sleeping out under the stars is one of our favorite ways to unwind, and unlike backpacking, frontcountry camping allows for the full comfort outdoor experience — without the worry over pack weights and size. And with that, one of the first pieces of kit we splurge on is the perfect camping mattress. Ultra-cushioned, cozy, and warm — all assets in ensuring your night out is a memorable one.

We all have different needs when it comes to camping matresses, so while there isn’t a single camping pad that will suit everyone out there, we’ve broken them up into categories to help you find the right camp pad for you. And our picks aren’t skin-deep, either — in total, our team has put in over 300 hours of slumber over the seasons, testing the best camping matresses and sleeping pads from across the market and seeking out the best for every conceivable camp situation.

During all of our testing, we tallied weights, timed inflation rates, and stuffed these mattresses mercilessly into the backs of our rigs, comparing each against the other in our search for the best. Packed size, comfort, warmth, ease of use, and durability were all considered, and we tested just about every mattress we could get our mitts on. These are the camping mattresses we recommend to just about anyone looking for a good night out in the wilderness.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys that span the camping mattress spectrum. At the end of our list, we’ve included a buyer’s guide that spells out the ins and outs of camping mattresses, ensuring you can key in on the one for you. We’ve also included a product spec table for easy comparison. And, if you still have questions about camping mattresses, there’s an FAQ for that.

Editor’s Note: We updated our Camping Mattress guide on May 15, 2024, to add the Exped LuxeMat — a supremely comfortable camp pad with a built-in and wool-insulated cover that’s as soft as can be.

The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024


Best Overall Camping Mattress

Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

Specs

  • Weight 5 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Packed size 10.3" x 26" rolled
  • R-value 7
  • Thickness 4.25"
  • Material Polyester, open-cell foam
Product Badge The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Warm
  • Thick
  • Comfortable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Not as easy to inflate initially as other comparable pads
  • Tube-style stuff sack requires extra work to fit pad into
Best Budget Camping Mattress

REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL

Specs

  • Weight 6 lbs., 6 oz.
  • Packed size 30" x 11" rolled
  • R-value 6.6
  • Thickness 4"
  • Material Polyester, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Plush comfort
  • Easy to use inflation and deflation valves
  • Updated pump sack makes inflation a breeze

Cons

  • Large packed size
Best Basecamp Camping Mattress

NEMO Roamer XL Wide

Specs

  • Weight 5 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Packed size 10" x 16" rolled
  • R-value 6
  • Thickness 4"
  • Material 75-denier polyester, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Connects to another Roamer pad to create a queen-size mattress

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Valve leaks over time
Best Crossover Pad for Camping & Backpacking

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 7 oz.
  • Packed size 9.5" x 5.7" (rolled)
  • R-value 3.7
  • Thickness 4"
  • Material 50-denier polyester, nylon
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Packed size rivals some backpacking sleeping pads
  • Internal structure limits the amount of bounce
  • TwinLock valves make for easy inflation and deflation

Cons

  • Non-vertical sidewalls mean less usable space
  • Durability will be less than other sleeping pads
Best Double Camping Mattress

Exped MegaMat Duo 10

Specs

  • Weight 9 lbs., 14 oz.
  • Packed size 11" x 22" rolled
  • R-value 9.5
  • Thickness 3.9"
  • Material 50-denier nylon top, 75-denier polyester bottom, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Supremely comfortable
  • Durable
  • Doesn't translate movement
  • Generous sleeping area

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large packed size
  • Heavy
Best Air Mattress for Camping

ALPS Mountaineering Vertex Air Bed

Specs

  • Weight 4 lbs., 12 oz.
  • Packed size 17" x 14" x 5"
  • R-value N/A
  • Thickness 6"
  • Material PVC-free polyester
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • PVC-free
  • Included electric pump

Cons

  • Not as plush as larger air mattresses
  • Not insulated
Best Mattress for a Truck Bed

Hest Dually

Specs

  • Weight 32 lbs.
  • Packed size 78" x 25" x 7.8"
  • R-value Unavailable
  • Thickness 3.9"
  • Material Polyurethane-backed nylon, two types of polyfoam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Highly durable
  • Ideal for truck bed camping
  • Two types of foam for both firm and soft support

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large overall packed size
Best of the Rest

Exped LuxeMat

Specs

  • Weight 6 lbs., 12.3 oz.
  • Packed size 26.4" x 7.9" rolled
  • R-Value 7.2
  • Thickness 4"
  • Material Organic cotton and wool cover, recycled polyester TPU core with open-cell polyurethane foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Cozy knit cotton cover is insulated with wool, and is super soft next-to-skin
  • Added organization pockets on cover keeps essentials close
  • Zippers on edges to combine pads together with double-wide bed, or couch

Cons

  • Heavier than the similar MegaMat 10
  • On the pricier side

Big Agnes Captain Comfort Deluxe

Specs

  • Weight 6 lbs., 6 oz.
  • Packed size 17" x 11" rolled
  • R-value 8.3
  • Thickness 5"
  • Material Polyester and spandex top, polyester bottom, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Very warm R-value
  • Vertical side walls
  • Durable

Cons

  • Heavier than other comparable mattresses

NEMO Quasar 3D

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 12 oz.
  • Packed size 8" x 4.5" rolled
  • R-value 1.8 non-insulated, 3.3 insulated
  • Thickness 3.5"
  • Material 30-denier polyester ripstop
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Excellent packed size
  • Body-contoured pad baffles and elevated head
  • Vortex pump sack works great

Cons

  • Finicky valve system
  • Not quite as warm as comparable pads

Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap Sleeping Pad

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Packed size 9.5" x 21" rolled
  • R-value 6
  • Thickness 3"
  • Material Polyester, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Comfortable
  • Reversible valves make inflating and deflating simple

Cons

  • Large packed size
  • Requires full inflation to avoid lumps

Klymit Klymaloft

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs., 6 oz.
  • Packed size 8" x 11.5" rolled
  • R-value 2.3
  • Thickness 3"
  • Material 75-denier polyester, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Compact packed size
  • Plush and soft foam topper
  • Single flip valve works well for inflation, deflation

Cons

  • R-value of 2.3 is on the lower end of the pads we tested

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI Sleeping Pad

Specs

  • Weight 2 lbs., 2 oz.
  • Packed size 6.5" x 11" rolled
  • R-value 4.1
  • Thickness 3"
  • Material 30-denier polyester, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Reversible valves make inflating and deflating simple
  • Can be used for backpacking and camping

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Thinner denier fabric may lead to lower durability

Exped MegaMat 15 Max

Specs

  • Weight 7 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Packed size 11" x 31.1" rolled
  • R-value 10.6
  • Thickness 6"
  • Material 50-denier nylon top, 75-denier polyester bottom, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Air-mattress thickness without the bounce
  • Includes Exped Mini Pump for inflation top off
  • Durable 75D polyester bottom material

Cons

  • Packed size is a beast
  • Pricey

REI Co-op Campwell Sleeping Pad

Specs

  • Weight 3 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Packed size 6.2" x 26" rolled
  • R-Value 7
  • Thickness 2.5"
  • Material Soft stretch polyester top, recycled polyester bottom, open-cell foam
The Best Camping Mattresses of 2024

Pros

  • Great value for the money
  • Toggle system for securing pads together or to cot is novel
  • Simple inflation and deflation valves
  • Impressive R-value for the price

Cons

  • Not as thick as many other camping mattresses
  • No included inflation sack

Best Camping Mattresses Comparison Chart

Camping MattressPriceWeightPacked SizeR-ValueThickness
Therm-a-Rest
MondoKing 3D
$240-2755 lbs., 8 oz.10.3 in. x 26 in. rolled74.25 in.
REI Co-op Camp 
Dreamer XL
$1795 lbs., 6 oz.32 in. x 10 in. rolled6.64 in.
NEMO Roamer$2505 lbs., 8 oz.10 in. x 16 in. rolled64 in.
Therm-a-Rest
NeoAir Topo Luxe
$180-2301 lb., 7 oz.9.5 in. x 5.7 in. rolled3.74 in.
Exped MegaMat
Duo 10
$350-4909 lbs., 14 oz.11 in. x 22 in. rolled9.53.9 in.
ALPS Mountaineering Vertex Air Bed
$1804 lbs., 12 oz.17 in. x 14 in. x 5 in.N/A6 in.
Hest Dually$549-57932 lbs.78 in. x 25 in. x 7.8 in.N/A3.9 in.
Exped LuxeMat
$350-4006 lbs., 12 oz.26.4″ x 7.9″ rolled7.24 in.
Big Agnes
Captain Comfort
$250-3506 lbs., 6 oz.17 in. x 11 in. rolled8.35 in.
NEMO Quasar 3D
$160-2001 lb., 12 oz.8 in. x 4.5 in. rolled1.8 / 3.33.5 in.
Therm-a-Rest 
LuxuryMap
$180-2403 lbs., 4 oz.9.5 in. x 21 in. rolled63 in.
Klymit Klymaloft$160-2702 lbs., 6 oz.8 in. x 11.5 in. rolled2.33 in.
Sea to Summit
Comfort Plus SI
$180-2002 lbs., 2 oz.6.5 in. x 11 in. rolled4.13 in.
Exped MegaMat
15 Max
$3007 lbs., 9 oz.11 in. x 31.1 in. rolled10.66 in.
REI Co-op Campwell Sleeping Pad
$1193 lbs., 8 oz.
6.2 in. x 26 in. rolled72.5 in.
Best camping sleeping pads of 2022
Relaxing with a book on the NEMO Roamer sleeping pad; (photo/Eric Phillips)

How We Tested the Best Camping Mattresses

Finding the perfect camping mattress isn’t always a cut-and-dry affair, and we aren’t the types to take bad advice lying down. That’s why we’ve spent hours researching and field-testing camping mattresses and sleeping pads for this guide over multiple summer seasons.

Our selection comes service of input from backpackers and campers across the country, and during testing, we consider all facets of a proper camping mattress, including packed size, comfort, warmth, and ease of use. We also looked at long-term durability, as well as the value you’re getting for your money.

And because a good night’s sleep is subjective, we also shove off camping mattresses and pads into the packs of talented gear testers and friends — ensuring that we have input from all types, including the tall to petit, side or back sleeper, and thru-hiker to the weekend warrior. These camp mattresses have traveled in the backs of overlanding rigs to lofty pullouts above Colorado, been unfurled in the high-alpine fire lookout towers of the Pacific Northwest, and toted to campgrounds across the country.

Leading our current testing efforts is Senior Editor Nick Belcaster, an intermittent wilderness guide based smack-dab between the mountains of the Cascades and the waters of the Salish Sea in Washington State. Belcaster has spent entire seasons sleeping outdoors while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and has years under his belt equipping outdoors-goers to bed down in some of the most challenging terrain.

To date, we have saddled up for sleep atop more than 20 different camping mattresses and have nearly 300 hours of shuteye logged in our search for the best of the best for any circumstances. We know that every camping trip may look a little different, which is why we’ve scanned the spectrum of options and tested everything from lightweight pads that’ll do double-duty in backpacking and camping, to mondo-sized 6-inch-thick mattresses that’ll rival your own at home.

At the end of the day, we’re confident these are the best camping mattresses available today. And, as new pads hit the market, we’ll fold them into our testing to ensure our line-up is hip to the latest trends in backcountry bedding.

From car-camping tents to the back of the pickup, we've tossed camping mattresses pretty much everywhere to give them a good shake-down
From car-camping tents to the back of the pickup, we’ve tossed camping mattresses pretty much everywhere to give them a good shakedown; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Camping Mattress

Before reading our buyer’s guide, take a few moments to think about how you plan to camp and sleep.

Will you be driving up to a camp spot, sleeping in your vehicle, hiking a mile or so in, or heading out on a weeklong backpacking trip? Do you sleep on your back, side, or stomach? Is extra cushioning important, or do you care more about saving weight?

Understanding your sleep preferences will help determine the best camping mattress for you. Read on for the most important factors in choosing a camping pad. For this particular roundup, we focused specifically on pads made for car camping and similar applications. We did not test pads or mattresses designed to fit into a backpacking pack. If you’re looking for a backpacking pad, check out our favorite products here.

Camping Pads Comparison
Remember, camping pads are made for comfort! You’ll be hard-pressed to fit two of these mats in a backpacking tent; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Camping Mattress Types

Self-Inflating: Laid up with a hybrid air/foam construction, a self-inflating camp mattress is filled with open-cell foam that can be compressed and expanded with the turn of the valve. Once open, air fills the chamber and expands the mat to its full volume, with all of the benefits of the added cushion of foam.

This foam does make these mats a good bit less packable and heavier, but for most campers who don’t have very far to travel, a self-inflating mattress makes the most sense. Consider the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D as the standard bearer for self-inflating mattresses.

Foam Pads: Large and in charge, all foam mattresses are made with different densities of polyfoam to support and cradle you as you sleep — just flop it down and you’re good to go. While most foam mattresses today, like the Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite or NEMO Switchback, are oriented more for backpacking, there are others still that bulk up on the foam and forgo the portability in favor of comfort.

The greatest benefit of a foam mattress lies in its simplicity and ease of use, along with the guarantee that it won’t pop when in contact with any errant pokies. The Hest Dually was the only all-foam design to gain high marks from our testing, but it did so with ease.

Air Mattresses: The most simple of all camping mattress designs, air mattresses are completely suspended by the volume of air they trap. This means that you’ll need to inflate them, either courtesy of your lungs, or with a pump sack or electric air pump. The payoff for your effort comes in the form of packed volume, which is often much more compact compared to their self-inflating and foam counterparts.

On the car-camping side of the spectrum, the ALPS Mountaineering Vertex Air Bed goes up easy, and if you need a sleeping pad that can do it all, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe or NEMO Quasar 3D are both equally at home in a backpacking pack or the back of your truck.

Camping Matresses vs. Sleeping Pads

Hest Dually mattress in truck bed
The Hest Dually in the back of our tester’s 2010 F-150 on a Decked drawer system; (photo/Sean McCoy)

The difference between a camping mattress and a sleeping pad is a gray area. Consider the terms to exist on a continuum, with sleeping pads being more of your standard backpacking fare and prioritizing compressibility, and mattresses being thicker, cushier, and less portable.

These mattresses also very often incorporate more foam in their builds, and this can be a sure sign that a mattress prioritizes comfort over all else. At 32 pounds, the HEST Dually is definitely in the “mattress” category.

Sleeping pads are relatively thin, light, and portable. Though this list mostly focuses on car camping products, certain camping mattresses are portable enough to bring along on river trips and short backpacking missions. The Sea to Summit Comfort Plus SI Sleeping Pad is a prime example of a versatile sleeping pad.

Then, there are some options that buck convention and exist comfortably in between titles. A pad like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe is relatively thick at 4 inches, but due to its full air-pad design, compresses down to a size that rivals many through-and-through backpacking pads. The Klymit Klymaloft, with its hybrid half-foam, half-air design also lands in this category.

Weight & Packed Size

The two welter-weight champs, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe and the NEMO Quasar, are equally at home car camping as they are on short backpacking trips; (photo/Erika Courtney)

If you’re mainly car camping, you can maximize comfort by going with a more padded, inflatable option like the NEMO Roamer or a deluxe foam mattress like the Hest Dually. The tradeoff is that these don’t pack down as small and are too heavy for backpacking.

If you plan on hiking into the backcountry, a pad that packs down small and weighs less is ideal. Just how small and light you want to go is up to you. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and weighs just 1 pound, 7 ounces.

Consider also how you’re going to be transporting your camping mattresses around. Many manufacturers today are getting wise to the issues caused by tube-style stuff sacks, which while they may work the first time, good luck returning a mat to its nylon sleeve after you’ve used it. Many camping mattresses today now come with side-opening stuff sacks, which feature a wide mouth for easy storage, as well as compression straps to cinch down the whole affair for easy transport.

Camping Mattress Comfort

Stacked Camping Sleeping Pads
The thickness of your camping mattress will always correlate to the overall comfort; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

In general, the thicker the pad, the more comfortable it is. Additionally, having a bit of foam or extra insulation increases the comfort factor and decreases the noise (see below).

Since camping mattresses don’t need to often be carried far, they can afford to bump up the thickness in many cases. The average thickness across the pads we tested was 4 inches, with the thinnest of the bunch being the REI Co-op Campwell Sleeping Pad at 2.5 inches and the thickest being the luxurious Exped MegaMat 15 Max at 6 inches.

Pads that rely on air alone for their structure can sometimes feel a bit bouncy if underinflated, which is why many will incorporate closed-cell foam in their construction. This gives the pad a self-inflating quality as the foam bounces back. We have found through our testing that around 3 inches is about the minimum we’re comfortable sleeping on a mattress that features no foam at all — while a mattress with foam has the ability to keep us comfortable down to below this thickness.

If you’re a side sleeper, you understand the need for plenty of cushioning under your hips and shoulders. For a better night’s sleep, you’ll want to consider a thicker option.

Durability & Denier

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Fabric
The 50-denier polyester used in the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe is a bit thinner than most camping pads, but greatly improves the packability of this dual-use mattress; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Denier is a unit of measurement used to describe textile strength. The higher the denier, the thicker and stronger the fabric. When it comes to mattresses and sleeping pads, this is mainly important for puncture resistance.

On one end, the lightweight and packable Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe is made with 50-denier nylon. On the other end, consider that the NEMO Roamer is made with 75-denier polyester. As you can imagine, there’s often a tradeoff between durability, weight, and packability.

Consider also the durability of the components used elsewhere in the pad, such as the interior closed-cell foam, or the inflation valves. As in most things, the maxim of getting what you pay for applies here as well. We have used certain sleeping pads for entire thru-hikes and have been impressed by their tenacity and ability to shoulder abuse. As always, take care of your equipment and it will pay dividends in longevity.

Repairing your camp mattress can be a stressful endeavor, but being prepared for the situation can greatly alleviate that. Many pads today will ship with a small patch kit, which can be utilized in the field to repair small leaks. For more serious issues, consider a more total solution like the Therm-a-Rest Permanent Home Repair Kit, which features a long-cure epoxy and fabric patches. Even certain valves today are user-replaceable.

Warmth & R-Value

Camper Placing Big Agnes Capitan Comfort Sleeping Pad Into Tent
At an 8.3 R-Value, the Big Agnes Captain Comfort provides a lot of warmth for year-round camping; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

In addition to comfortable cushioning, a good camping pad should provide some insulation from the ground. Enter the R-value: a measure of thermal resistance that can shed some light on just how warm a camping mattress might keep you.

R-value testing goes a little like this: inside a cold chamber, a mattress or pad is placed between two metal plates. An array of sensors measure the temperature flow between these plates, and provide a numerical value relative to the mattress or pad’s ability to retain and reflect warmth.

Since testing can occur in different ways, many sleeping pad manufacturers have adopted the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) R-value Standard. The higher the R-value, the warmer and more insulating the sleeping pad will be. Notably, the MegaMat and Big Agnes Captain Comfort clock in with whopping 9.5 and 8.3 R-values, respectively, making them both cozy for year-round car camping.

The R-value you need depends a bit on whether you tend to be a warm or cool sleeper, as well as the specific sleeping bag that you’ll be using. In general, you’ll want a mattress or pad with a value greater than 5 for comfortable winter camping. For summer, something in the 2 to 4 range should work for warmer nights.

If waking up with a cold back is a common complaint, consider choosing a warmer mattress or pad or adding a foam pad like the Z-Lite under your normal pad for additional insulation.

Length & Width

Most camping mattresses come in regular and long versions. Some also come in short, wide, and extra-long varieties. The length and width you need depend not only on your dimensions but also on your camping goals. The pad you go with will also ultimately depend on the space that’s available to you to sleep in. Consider that typical backpacking tents more often have more space-efficient floor plans, while camping tents will provide more space for larger camping mattresses.

We’ve found that while many backpacking sleeping pads begin at around 20 inches wide, many camping pads start at around 25 inches and expand from there. And while mummy-style profiles are popular in backpacking pads, most all camping mattresses will afford the extra comfort and space that comes with a true rectangle design.

We know tall thru-hikers who happily cut their Z-Lite pad in half to shave a few ounces off their pack weight. And we know some tiny testers who prefer a wide sleeping pad because they like the ability to roll around in their sleep.

The main thing to remember is an increase in length and width almost always corresponds to an increase in price and packed size.

Valves & Inflation

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Topo Luxe Sleeping Pad
The two TwinLock valves make for quick and easy inflation and deflation, with the ability to bleed off pressure to dial in the comfort; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Up until recent years, almost all camping mattresses and sleeping pads utilized a twisting plastic valve. Turn one direction to open it for inflation, and (quickly!) turn the other to close and trap air inside.

While this system works, it’s not the easiest to inflate. Because air can freely move back and forth, you need to either create constant pressure while blowing it up or skillfully use your tongue to stop air from exiting the pad while inhaling. It can be done, but we prefer the new inflation technology when tired on the trail.

Luckily, many mattresses and pads now use flat valves with dedicated inflation and deflation settings. Best of all, a one-way flap keeps air from escaping during inflation.

While many pads feature separate valves for inflation and deflation, the Klymit Klymaloft has a valve that flips from one mode to the next. This makes achieving the perfect firmness a breeze.

An inflation bag can be a great way to save your lungs, and the Vortex Pump Sack included with the NEMO Quasar gets top marks; (photo/Erika Courtney)

In addition to valves, many pads now come with inflation bags. The Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D comes with an inflation bag integrated into the stuff sack. The Big Agnes Pumphouse Ultra ($35) is sold separately and works as both a dry bag and an inflation bag. Utilizing these pump sacks has multiple benefits, and they are easy to use once you get the hang of them.

Begin by attaching the sack to the valve of your mattress or sleeping pad, and then expand the bag so that it fills with air. We often find that a light breath will expand the bag quickly. Then, close off the opening and compress the bag so that it forces the trapped air into the pad.

The upside to this system is not only speedy inflation but also that no moisture from your warm breath enters the sleeping pad. At its most benign, warm air will contract overnight and lead to a saggy mattress, but there are also concerns of mildew to be mindful of.

Finally, many manufacturers are now coming out with diminutive electric air pumps to assist in getting your sleeping pad up and running. These include the Exped Widget, the Klymit USB Rechargeable Pump, and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Micro Pump ($43). Bringing these along may seem trivial at the trailhead, but after a long romp in, we’ve happily borrowed many to get our camp set up quickly.

Self-Inflating

Big Agnes Capitan Comfort Sleeping Pad Inside the NEMO Aurora Highrise Tent
The open-cell foam of the Big Agnes Captain Comfort Mattress means it will expand to close to fully inflated; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Self-inflating, also abbreviated as ‘SI,’ pads have been around the block for a number of years, and rely on a foam interior to rebound to their original dimensions to inflate the mattress. We have found that given enough time, these generally will get about 75% of the way to fully inflated, and will require a quick few breaths or pumps from a pump sack to fully inflate the pad.

Consider tossing your self-inflating mattresses into your tent early on in your camp setup, to better ensure that it has enough time to fully reconstitute itself. It’s also worth noting that these mattresses are less susceptible to cold contraction overnight, as the air they are filled with is ambient temperature, versus the warm air from your lungs.

Noise

NEMO Roamer XL Sleeping Pad
Waking up after a pleasant night on the NEMO Roamer XL, a top-notch sleeping pad; (photo/Eric Phillips)

The most common complaint about camping sleeping pads is the loud, crinkly noise. While packing less is great, sleeping on a pad as noisy as a potato chip bag is less than ideal. And having your tentmate toss and turn all night is even worse.

Fortunately, brands are taking note and making quieter sleeping pads. On this list, the Exped MegaMat is noticeably crinkle-free. This is largely due to the inclusion of foam in the build, and any pad that utilizes it will see a definite reduction in noise overall.

Price

We love a good value. But even more than that, we appreciate gear that performs well and lasts through several seasons of use.

If you only plan to sleep outside a weekend or two a year, a cheaper pad may get the job done just fine. But if camping is a regular occurrence, it’s worth investing more in a pad. At just above $119, the REI Co-op Campwell Sleeping Pad is an impressive value, but it certainly won’t be winning any awards for absolute luxury.

We find that pads and mattresses in the $250-300 range are about the sweet spot when it comes to balancing price and features. These include pads such as the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing, Big Agnes Captain Comfort, and the NEMO Roamer.

Toward the upper end of the spectrum are the luxuriously thick and warm pads, such as the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 and MegaMat 15 Max. These pads both will put a bigger hurting on your wallet at $300+, but offer up incredible comfort in return.

This is the foundation of your sleep, and getting enough rest at night will make spending all day outside that much more enjoyable. In general, forking over a few extra bucks will get you some combination of increased comfort, durability, and warmth.

FAQ

What is the most comfortable camping matresss?

We find that camping mattress comfort is very often directly tied to overall thickness, as well as the inclusion of foam in the build. Because of this, hybrid-style designs such as the NEMO Roamer or Exped MegaMat Duo 10 will always be high on our lists of the most comfortable.

If price and weight are no concern, the Hest Dually is a unique foam mattress that provides top-tier comfort. For a more packable camp mattress, the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing is a winner.

How thick should a camping mattress be?

This depends entirely on your individual comfort level. Generally, we’d recommend 1.5 inches as the bare minimum.

And if price and space are not a concern, go with something in the range of 4+ inches. This not only offers increased padding, but also greater warmth and protection from the ground. If a camping mattress is purely suspended by air alone, it will need to be thicker than designs that use air and foam together to support your body.

How do you choose a camping mattresss?

Finding the right camping mattress can make or break your camp trip. First consider, where, when, and how often you plan to camp.

Are you camping in the hot, humid South? Or do you camp a lot in the winter? And are you spending a lot of time outside or just getting started with a night or two camped out?

If you’re camping when it’s cold, you’ll want to prioritize a higher insulation (R-value) level. And if you’re just testing it out or on a tighter budget, go with something like the sub-$120 REI Co-op Campwell Sleeping Pad.

What is the best mattress for car camping?

The best thing about car camping is that you don’t need to obsess over the weight or packed size. As long as it reasonably fits in your car, you can focus more on comfort.

After more than a year of testing, we found the Therm-a-Rest MondoKing topped the charts for durability, comfort, and ease of use. If you’re looking for a foam mattress, the Hest Dually delivers traditional comfort that will never let you down overnight.

What is the R-Value for camping mattresses?

The R-value, generally speaking, is a measure of the ability of a camping mattress to resist heat transfer. Because a mattress or sleeping pad is such a vital part of your camping sleep system, it’s important to match your pad and sleeping bag for the overnight temperatures you’ll be anticipating.

The higher the R-value of your mattress or sleeping pad, the greater it will resist giving away your hard-earned body heat to the ground beneath it. R-values in backpacking pads typically range from 1 to 6, while camping mattresses are often warmer, and can sometimes reach double digits. For 3-season camping, consider a mattress or pad with an R-value of between 1 and 4, and for shoulder season or winter camping, you’ll want a pad with a value greater than 5.

It’s important to note that this rating system has only recently become standardized, and is now set in place by the international regulating agency ASTM International. This levels the playing field when it comes to comparing different products.

How thick should a camping matress be for side sleepers?

When it comes to side sleeping, having a thicker camp mattress can make or break your overnight experience. Throughout our testing, we have found 3 and 4 inches of cushion to be about perfect for ensuring that our hip bones don’t come in contact with the ground.

It’s important to note that mattresses that utilize a foam and air construction often support side sleepers better than pads that are only supported by air. This is because the foam helps to spread out the pressure points caused by side sleeping. Side sleepers should consider a mattress like the Therm-a-Rest LuxuryMap, which has body-mapped foam to better support the hips during sleep.

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